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It always seems to be so difficult to decide just how much food one needs to have in for Christmas, I never seem to get it right.    Even my most meticulous plans change – late invitations mean that food is relegated to the back of the fridge and the best laid plans are cheerfully ditched for the sake of spontaneous conviviality.
Last week we were sorting through the miscellaneous items still in the fridge and pantry after the festive season.   We were resolutely making New Year resolutions to use up all those little bits that have been chucked into the freezer in a desperate effort to reduce waste when plans changed.
So what did I find?   Several bags of cranberries – they freeze brilliantly and can of course be made into cranberry sauce to accompany a juicy roast pheasant, guinea fowl or chicken at any time, but you may want to try something a little less predictable.  Throw a fistful into the dry ingredients when you are making scones, or add them to a muffin mix, the bittersweet flavour is a delicious surprise. 
We have also been putting cranberries into ice-cubes to use in drinks over the festive season.  They look pretty and taste good, particularly if you have time to prick them with a needle and soak the cranberries in a little simple sugar syrup beforehand.
A bittersweet cranberry sauce is delicious as a filling in a meringue roulade or in a feather light sponge with some softly whipped cream.  Our current favourite though is a caramelized cranberry tart given to me by Rosemary Kearney, a former student and teacher here at the school.  It is rich and intense and keeps well – a little slice is perfect with a blob of whipped cream after dinner.  
Many houses have a pot or two of mincemeat left over also, most recipes keep well, sometimes even for years, so there’s no great urgency to use it up, but when you begin to feel peckish again try making this mincemeat crumble tart or a mincemeat slice.  They are both so delectable that its almost worth making mincemeat specially to try them.  A layer of mincemeat is also delicious on the base of a Bramley apple tart. 
This Christmas I got a present of not one, but two beautiful Pannetone.  The rich, featherlight yeasted Italian cake wrapped in gold paper and silk ribbon, makes an irresistible nibble over Christmas and leftovers make the best bread and butter pudding.  Its certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

Caramelized Cranberry Tart


Serves 8-10
1 x 9½ inch (24cm) sweet shortcrust pastry  tart shell, baked blind
Filling
10 fl ozs (285ml) heavy whipping cream
10 ozs (285g) granulated sugar
2½ fl ozs (65ml) water
10 ozs (285g) cranberries
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
¼ teasp. finely chopped orange zest
Preheat the oven to 325F/160C/regulo 3
Put the cream into a small saucepan, and scald over a medium-high heat.   Remove the cream from the heat and cover.  Set aside.
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan.   Stir over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.   Increase the heat to high and cook the sugar until it is chestnut in colour.   (Do not stir after you increase the heat.)  Remove the saucepan from the stove and slowly add half the cranberries, stirring until they release their juice and wilt slightly.
Slowly add the warm cream, stirring constantly.  Add the remaining cranberries.  Cool for  4 or 5 minutes and gently whisk in the egg and the orange zest.
Pour the mixture into the par-baked pie shell.  Bake until thick, golden and bubbly, about 1 hour.   Cool the tart on a wire rack before cutting.   Serve with softly whipped cream.

Cranberry Muffins


Makes 8
8 ozs (225g) white flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
5oz (140g) caster sugar
3oz (85g) butter
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
6floz (170ml) milk
4oz (110g) cranberries
1 muffin tray lined with muffin papers
Preheat the oven at 200°C. Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla essence and milk and add to the dry mixture. Combine with a fork to give a wet consistency. Fold in the cranberries gently. Spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Shortbread


Makes 16 or more if cut into small squares
Base
8 oz (225g) plain white flour
1 oz (25g) semolina
1 oz (25g) custard powder
2 oz (50g) icing sugar
7 oz (200g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
cold water to bind
14 oz (400g) homemade mincemeat
Topping
4 oz (110g) plain white flour
½ oz (15g) semolina
½ oz (15g) custard powder
1 oz  (25g) icing sugar
3½ oz (100g) unsalted butter
castor sugar for dusting
12 " x 8 "  (30.5cm x 20.5cm) Swiss roll tin, greased
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4/
To make the base.  Sieve the flour, semolina, custard powder and icing sugar into a bowl.  Mix well.  Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Carefully add just enough water to bring the mixture together.   Press the mixture into the greased tin, making sure it fills into the corners of the tin.
Spread the mincemeat on top, leaving a narrow border all around.
Next make the topping.  Sieve the flour, semolina, custard powder and icing sugar together and rub in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.   Spread the crumble mixture on top of the mincemeat and gently press down with your fingers to ensure an even cover.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top.  Cut into squares while still hot.   Sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and allow to cool in the tin.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Crumble Tart


Serves 8-10
Crumble topping
4 ozs (110g) self-raising flour
3 ozs (85g) chilled butter, diced
3 ozs (85g) castor sugar
1 oz (30g) flaked almonds
Cake
6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour
4 ozs (110g) softened butter
4 ozs (110g) soft brown sugar
2 eggs preferably free range
2 teasp. pure vanilla essence
2 tablesp.  milk
13 lb (560g) home-made mincemeat
icing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.  Butter a 82 inch/21.5cm
spring form tin. 
To make the crumble topping
 Put 4 ozs/110g of flour and castor sugar into a bowl.  Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the almonds.  Keep aside.
To make the cake
Cream the soft butter in a bowl.  Add the soft brown sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one by one, add the vanilla essence and stir in the sieved flour and milk. 
Spoon the mixture into the greased tin.  Spread the mincemeat over the batter.  Sprinkle the crumble over the mincemeat.  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Remove the sides and dredge the cake with icing sugar.  Serve warm with softly whipped cream. 

Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding


Bread and Butter Pudding is a most irresistible way of using up leftover white bread - this is a particularly delicious recipe.
Serves 6-8
12 slices Pannetone or good-quality white bread, crusts removed
2 ozs (55g) butter, preferably unsalted
½ teasp. freshly-grated nutmeg or cinnamon
7 ozs (200g) Lexia raisins or plump sultanas
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence or a dash of Eau de Vie or brandy
6 ozs (170g) sugar
1 tablesp.  sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding
Garnish
Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish
Butter the pannetone or bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in a dish.  Sprinkle with half the nutmeg or cinnamon and half the raisins, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining spice and fruit on top.  Cover the raisins with the remaining pannetone or bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, eau de vie or brandy if using and sugar.  Pour the mixture through a sieve over the pudding.  Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie - the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish.  Bake in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden.  Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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